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Tierney on Keith Chen, Monty Hall, and Psychology Experiments

John Tierney hits a home run with this fantastic column about a recent paper by Keith Chen (whose work on capuchin monkeys has previously caught our attention).

The Monty Hall problem is as follows:

You are chosen to compete on Let’s Make a Deal. There are three curtains. Behind one of the curtains is something wonderful like a new car. Behind the other two curtains is something worthless (at least to an American) like a goat.

You choose curtain #1. Then Monty Hall pulls open curtain #2 revealing something terrible behind it. That leaves curtain #1 and curtain #3. One has a car behind it, the other has the goat. The question: should you stick with curtain #1 or switch to curtain #3? To find out the answer, read Tierney’s column.

Keith Chen’s paper is not directly about Let’s Make a Deal, but rather a subtle application of the same logic to a common method of measuring how choices are made in psychology lab experiments. I have to confess that I had to read Chen’s paper a few times before I got what he was talking about, just as it took me a long time to understand the Monty Hall problem the first time I heard it.

Congratulations to Keith on writing an extremely insightful piece, even if it will probably never be published in a peer reviewed journal because of the inherent biases in the process!